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About Watershed

Since April 2015, Prof. Lenore Manderson has organised an art-science programme, Earth, Itself, through the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES). IBES supports research to understand the interactions between natural, human and social systems. Our teaching programs prepare future leaders to envision and build a just and sustainable world. We cultivate strong research in five disciplinary areas: Conservation Science, Land Change Science, Climate Science, Environmental Health, and Institutions and Human Behavior.

The aim is to facilitate conversations and build collaborations across creative arts practice and theory, the humanities, and the social, natural and physical sciences. 

At Brown, Manderson drew on the elements earth, air, fire, and water and aligned each element with an art practice and research component. Thinking the Earth featured dancers who performed on a sprung dance floor covered with wet clay to demonstrate impact. Air was coupled with music and sound to produce Atmospheres; Fire with ceramics and glass blowing to forge what fire does; and Water and Ice with text to transcribe Water’s edge.

Now Manderson has brought the programme to Wits where it will manifest as WATERSHED: Art, Science and Elemental Politics. This research-enmeshed celebration of water will run from 10 to 21 September 2018 and will include interactive art installations, engineering and scientific displays, and academic symposia across disciplines and faculties highlighting water on the continental divide. 

“The artwork is about getting people working outside the academy to engage with water in a way that they haven’t before. If you’re a dancer, for example, you may never go to a seminar by an earth scientist on palaeogeology, but finding ways to bring together artists and scientists opens up how you understand the world and what you understand to be the issues,” says Manderson. 

As at IBES with Water’s edge, collaboration across disciplines defines WATERSHED at Wits. Several artists participating in WATERSHED are visiting fellows in the digital arts, fine arts, and theatre and performance in the School of Arts at Wits. 

"The conceiving of the Watershed: Art, Science and Elemental Politics project and its precursors have always understood artists to be central to the ways in which knowledge production and enquiry takes place. This intersects with the University's commitment to artistic research, the Wits School of Arts' leading role in deepening understandings in and around artistic research, and the ways in which newly imagined futures are generated through inter- and cross-disciplinary practices,” says Associate Professor David Andrew, Head of the Division of Visual Arts at Wits.